For parents of minor children, choosing a guardian for their dependents is possibly the biggest estate planning decision to make. Here are some things to consider when making this choice:
- Who will do the next best job in raising your kids if you can’t be there?
- Do they know what’s important to you and share your values? Do they love your children?
- Will your children’s lifestyle be disrupted or will they be able to continue at the same schools and with their extra-curricular activities?
When naming a guardian, here are a few important things to know:
- Your guardian does not have to be a family member. Sometimes due to distance and circumstances, a family friend is better suited to act as guardian.
- You may name an individual or a married couple as guardian. If you are considering naming a couple, carefully determine if one person is a higher priority as guardian. In case of a death or divorce of that couple, you might be better off naming them individually in your order of preference.
- Always assign alternates. Sometimes guardians decline or are unable to serve. Be sure to have a back-up plan for your back-up plan!
- If there are individuals that you expressly do not want to end up as guardian of your children, it’s important to make those wishes known in your estate plan as well.
While it’s not required that you get approval from someone before naming them as guardian in your estate plan, it’s absolutely suggested that you communicate with them ahead of time. Talk to them about why you chose them and what your hopes and expectations are. Remember that guardianship will likely continue on even after minors turn 18. By communicating your wishes to your guardian you maximize the opportunity for things to transition as smoothly as possible and that your traditions and legacy can be carried forward.